Letter to the Editor

Flip-flops, twinkies, check-out counters and health care

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Dear editor:

"One of these things is not like the others. One of these things doesn't belong." Remember that song from Sesame Street? Four items walk onto the screen, one of which clearly doesn't belong with the others.

For nearly a century the general practice doctor hung up his "shingle" (small wooden sign for us younger folks) and practiced in communities through out the country. They provided all of their patients' care from colds to broken bones. As medicine advanced, specialization developed to keep pace. Family practitioners continued to practice in communities serving for decades delivering their patients' babies and even grandbabies.

Hospitals then changed from community places of health care and caring to multi-billion dollar hospital systems. They became their own communities with campuses and parking lots so large; that the patient's hip or knee had to be OK if they could make it to the orthopedic doctor's office. These systems hired their own doctors pulling them out of the community where they served for decades. Not only was access an issue, but many of these doctors became a new form of specialist, a transitionist (nickname for a doctor who moves one hospital system to another every few years).

Now we have health care providers popping up in pharmacies and grocery stores. Many in our society, which has developed so little value for life, will have no problem looking for their doctor on aisle 5. But of what caliber will the health care provider be who places no more value on their training and skill than to be located between flip-flops and Twinkies? Access to doctors has been made more difficult in many communities by hospital systems and our own desire for convenience. However, we as patients need to place more value on life and health than a Twinkie. We as doctors need to place more value on the practice of medicine and caring for our patients than the convenience of punching a time card and collecting a paycheck at the local food mart. Sesame Street was right; one of these things doesn't belong.

Dr. Scott Beard, MD

president, West Central Medical Society